As the idea of Saint Joseph’s and Villanova becoming in-conference rivals becomes more and more likely, the two close rivals squared off for their annual matchup. On paper, SJU had this won before tip. For the first time in years, the Hawks had the bragging rights coming into their biggest rivalry game of the year. If the teams had been measured by talent and potential instead of points scored over two halves, the Hawks would have won by a large margin. Instead, they go back to Hawk Hill after losing by 4 and dropping to 5-3 on the young season. Saint Joseph’s had been up by 5 points with two minutes to go but failed to score again.
In a game where neither team shot better than 38% (SJU: 38%, Nova: 36%), the contest was partially decided by second-chance points as Villanova had 13 offensive boards to Saint Joseph’s 6. Midway through the second half, Hawk forward Halil Kanacevic riled the Villanova students up by shooting them a lewd and immature “hand gesture“, as the commentators continually referred to it, which signaled a shift in momentum. Villanova students are not known for being the loudest in or out of the city of Philadelphia but it turns out a middle finger pointed in their direction is enough to get them yelling. With only a few minutes remaining, a rattled Kanacevic missed two important free throws and James Bell sank a three-pointer at the other end that ended up being the winning shot.
Langston Galloway finally broke out of his slump with a 22-point outburst on 6-10 three-point shooting but he made 4 costly and uncharacteristic turnovers. Tay Jones added 16 but shot a poor 4-14 from the floor and played too aggressively at times, being called for two offensive fouls. The Hawks esteemed frontcourt was absent for much of the game as Kanacevic and CJ Aiken only accounted for 10 points combined. Ron Roberts added 10 on his own but there were very few highlight-reel alley-oops or dunks that were frequent in last year’s Holy War at Hagan Arena. Again unable to stimulate Phil Martelli’s stagnant half-court offense, the Hawks continued to settle for threes as 10 of the 18 made field goals came from beyond the arc.
The game was physical, tense, and even ugly at times. Nova coach Jay Wright was called for a technical in the first half after loudly disagreeing with a call. Following Kanacevic’s gesture, CJ Aiken received a technical for blocking a shot and then looking at a player who fell during the block. It appeared the referees felt they needed to make up for not T-ing up Kanacevic as Aiken clearly did not do enough to warrant a technical. The Hawks committed 18 turnovers to Villanova’s 13.
The Hawks now have an eleven day break to take finals and let this bitter loss simmer before they take on Fairfield at home on December 22nd.